Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark released today a fact-sheet with some interesting statistics. Through August 11th, 247,225 ballot have been mailed out to Pinellas voters. As of this weekend, 88,314 ballots have been returned, leaving 158,911 ballots still on the street.
Even if another 12,000 ballots are turned in today (the SOE’s office has received approximately 4,000 mail-ballots today and expects another 8,000 to be physically turned in at the polls tomorrow), that leaves some 140,000 ballots without a home. Or, actually, these ballot will remain in voters’t homes, never to be returned.
I genuinely don’t know if this is a good or a bad thing or what can be done about it. But it does seem like the Supervisor of Elections is sending tens of thousands of ballots to those who don’t appear very interested in returning them.
The conspiracy theorist in me believes it won’t be long before temptation strikes and someone gathers up a few hundred of these ballots, perhaps from an assisted living facility or a nursing home, and sells them to the highest bidder.
Wait, this is already happening in South Florida.
The Miami Herald reported earlier this month that detectives acting on a tip followed Deisy Cabrera, a 56-year-old Hialeah woman, for just two days before getting enough evidence to charge her with a third-degree felony and collect 31 suspicious ballots. Cabrera was acting as a boletera, an old-style political operative in South Florida’s Cuban-American communities deployed to help senior citizens vote by mail. But authorities said Cabrera crossed the line when she allegedly signed the mail ballot of a terminally ill nursing home resident who cannot speak, write or comprehend.
As an editorial in the Tampa Bay Times opines, Cabrera’s arrest highlights just how easy it is to corrupt the mail vote — from obtaining a ballot for an inactive voter illegally, to exerting undue influence at the moment a ballot is filled out, to forging voter signatures. Requesting a mail ballot over the phone requires just a voter’s name, address and date of birth — information easily gleaned from public documents. And the caller can request the ballot be shipped somewhere other than the voter’s primary residence.
Compare that to the polling place, where poll workers check IDs, watch voters sign their names, monitor the voting and then directly collect the ballots. There’s even a requirement that political operatives stumping for candidates must remain 100 feet from the door to the polling location.
Yet with a mail ballot, none of those securities apply.
It’s the eve of Election Day. Do you know where your ballot is?